(The following Town and Gown column originally ran in the January 13, 2009 edition of the Jacksonville News)
Another Gem on a Hill for JSU
Dr. William Meehan
For decades, Jacksonville State University has valued our reputation as the Friendliest Campus in the South. We consider it an important measure of our success to foster a campus community that embraces our students while they're pursuing their degrees and welcomes them back to campus as alumni, supporters along with their families. Because true Southern hospitality is such an important part of the JSU culture, we were thrilled in October 2008 when alumnus Earlon McWhorter and his wife Betty offered the university a phenomenal gift that will enable JSU to extend our hospitality even further while providing our students scholarship dollars and additional opportunities for real experience and training in the business and service industries.
On Dec. 31, the JSU Foundation officially assumed ownership of The Victoria, a beautiful bed and breakfast property in Anniston that is appraised at $3 million. The McWhorters have been great friends of the university for many years, and the facility's association with JSU is already firmly established, as The Victoria has provided comfortable accommodations to countless university guests and has given JSU faculty, staff and students a place to relax and visit after hours since it opened in 1985. JSU is grateful to the McWhorters for entrusting this unique and special gift to the university.
With its rich oak paneling, stained glass windows, majestic turret and grand staircase, the Victoria, like JSU's own campus, is a gem set on a hill. Built in 1888, the Victoria served as the residence of three prominent Anniston families-- the McKleroys, the Wilsons and the Kirbys-- before South Carolina developer Terry Powell purchased it in 1984 with the intent to convert it into a bed and breakfast. The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and McWhorter and Anniston architect Julian Jenkins began restoring the original structure and designing annexes that provided additional rooms with modern conveniences.
After significant investment, the property today is an exceptional blend of history, architecture and modern convenience.
It is in this blending of past and present that The Victoria and JSU find their complementary strengths, and it is from this point that the two will continue to prosper together. In exchange for its commitment to preserve and maintain the Victoria and its antique furnishings, the JSU Foundation will receive all the net income generated by the property. In keeping with the wishes of the McWhorter family, a large portion of the net proceeds will be placed into the Earlon and Betty McWhorter Scholarship Fund, which was established in 2001.
The Victoria will also serve as a lab for students majoring in business, family and consumer sciences and recreation, and we anticipate that ownership of The Victoria will lead to new academic programs in fields like hotel management.
During the weeks ahead, the JSU Foundation will continue to finalize transitional details and prepare for a grand re-opening, which will take place in the near future. In the meantime, The Victoria is open, receiving guests and hosting special events such as weddings, receptions, business meetings and conferences.
We are encouraged by the support we have received as the JSU community comes together enthusiastically to see to the details. Jay Prater '88), who recently received Marriott's highest national accolade in hotel management as general manager of the Marriott Auburn-Opelika Hotel and Conference Center at Grand National, has graciously volunteered his time and expertise. In addition to being a valued alumnus, Prater has particular knowledge about The Victoria-- he spent four years working there while pursuing his degree in business management at JSU.
While we plan great events in the days ahead, please consider this your personal invitation to consider The Victoria for overnight visits and family reunions. For more information, visit our website: www.thevictoria.com.
(Angie Finley, Public Relations Specialist, contributed to this article.)